Turning Garbage Into Ethanol

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Municipal solid waste, new ethanol feedstock
A municipal solid waste-to-ethanol project in Lake County, Indiana will begin producing ethanol and electricity in 2013. Powers Energy of America Inc. has arranged to acquire the solid waste from nearby communities.

Once operational, CEO Earl Powers expects the facility to take in up to 8,000 tons of municipal solid waste per day, 2,000 tons from Lake County and up to 6,000 per day from nearby Chicago.

Lake County has established a collective interlocal purchasing agreement that offers the 19 communities within the county the option to join and pay Powers Energy $17.25 per ton to take their waste, as opposed to about $40 per ton charged by local landfills. “There’s no penalty if they don’t join, however the cost savings is significant,” said Jeff Langbehn, executive director of the Lake County Solid Waste Management District.

The local waste industry has been one of the ethanol project’s largest opponents, according to Langbehn. “That’s because it’s going to take an enormous amount of waste out of the landfills,” he said. “That’s where they make their money and I understand that. [But] from the citizens’ standpoint, it reduces our costs and gives us an alternative energy source, not only in the ethanol but also in the electricity that it also produces.”

Community members and elected officials in Lake County are also in favor of the project because it is expected to provide 400 construction jobs and 400 well-paying, full-time positions when the plant is complete, Langbehn said. “We’re an economically blighted area so there’s a lot of excitement around the plant,” he added.

Powers said the company also plans to begin construction of another facility in Fairfax County, Virginia this year, adding that a company there has agreed to provide 6,000 tons per day of municipal solid waste. Powers Energy’s long-term plan calls for four more plants to be finalized next year and each following year, ramping up to an eventual total of 45 plants producing 2.1 billion gallons of municipal solid waste-based ethanol.

Langbehn said he encourages other waste managers to entertain the prospect of these types of facilities and offered to provide all of the information related to the project to any interested party.

The above is excerpted from the article, It's a Go For MSW-to-Ethanol Plant Near Chicago.

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